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Summer 2000: BMW Drives Brand Experience Online

Most everyone knows the BMW slogan: "The ultimate driving machine." Well, Woodcliff Lake, NJ-based BMW of North America, Inc. wanted to take the branding one step further.

The company initially unveiled its new sports activity vehicle BMW X5 with TV commercials during this year's Super Bowl and with a substantial print campaign. But the most innovative branding took place online—a four-episode e-mail campaign that utilized unique interactive marketing technology.

New York City-based togglethis provided the technology and programming driving the campaign, while Duffy Design & Interactive created and designed the episodes.

BMW's objective was to replicate the brand experience online. Consumers signed up to receive four episodes either at the BMW Web site ( or the togglethis site ( Episodes were spaced two to three weeks apart and sent directly to subscribers' e-mail boxes, and each had a central theme and offered photo-realistic images. "We wanted to introduce the X5 SAV to consumers in a way that would not only pique their interest, but allow us to showcase BMW's advanced technology in a fun, interactive environment," says Carol M. Burrows, Internet communications manager at BMW.

Each episode, which used toggle technology, allowed users to experience the vehicle online. For example, the first episode provided actual footage of the car on the road and close-up views of various features. The second episode showed illustrations of the vehicle and provided detailed data on the engine. The third episode centered on the car's interiors and allowed viewers to inspect the remote entry system, and check out the X5's design nuances - headlamps, sound system, and more.

The final episode focused on the BMW X5's safety features, hill descent control, and proprietary head protection system. Consumers were able to choose a vehicle color, hear the engine, watch the tires rotate, open and shut doors, and even control the pace of the car as it went downhill in the fourth episode.

"By clicking on images on the screen, consumers could interact with the X5 and take a virtual test drive," says Michelle Jacobs, togglethis vice president of sales and marketing. "The campaign encouraged users to opt-in to the series and get an interactive first look at the newest BMW."

The interactive e-mail ad campaign was promoted on the Internet via banner ads posted on Yahoo!, Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, Car and Driver and Motor Trend Online.

Although BMW declined to provide any statistical data on the actual number of viewers/participants in the online campaign, company officials have stated publicly they considered the campaign a success, since the original goal was only to drive visitors to the BMW guest book. If nothing else, Jacobs adds, BMW now has qualified leads of potential car buyers since viewers voluntarily provided their personal information in order to see the episodes.

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